in the new digital world order, few have escaped the earsplittingringtones, boardroom tables lined with smartphones, dinner dates romantically involved with theirtwitter feeds or strangers blasting videos without headphones. bad mobile behavior is all around us and in many circumstances can cost you friends and coworkers.
“the 2000’s exploded technology use, and our devices go everywhere with us now,” says anna post, etiquette expert and author of the latest edition of emily post’s etiquette. “technology isn’t rude or polite on its own. it’s how we are choosing to use it.”
in a survey of over 200 human resources managers conducted this year byintel, 79% said mobile devices create unnecessary disruptions in the workplace, and 42% have received complaints about mobile offenses in meetings, with phones ringing and off-topic internet use the most common. they nearly unanimously agreed that companies should establish guidelines and employees should mind their mobile manners.
post offers up her latest mobile etiquette tips to help you navigate the minefield and keep your relationships intact.
bad behavior no. 1: interruptions and social notworking in meetings
according to post, it’s important to be considerate of mobile use in all social contexts, but is critical in professional settings. “friends are more likely to forgive you,” she says. “in business, first impressions stick.” the intel survey found that the most common workplace misdeeds occur in meetings: not turning off a phone ringer, leaving to answer a call, checking and responding to email, and using devices for personal or off-meeting topics. it’s distracting and disrespectful. “giving someone our full attention is one of the ways we show respect,” warns post.
the fix: leave it at your desk
don’t even bring a mobile device to an important meeting, says post, or else you may forget to turn it off or be tempted to use it. if you know you have a really important call coming, she advises alerting the organizer before the meeting starts that you may need to step out and to sit near the door. at the same time, the speaker would be wise to set expectations in the beginning by asking that phones be turned off and that all unrelated windows be minimized. if it’s expected to run more than 45 minutes, post suggests a five-minute break to check messages.
bad behavior no. 2: loud, obnoxious alerts
loud and annoying sounds are the chief mobile etiquette issues, post says. at the office, nearby neighbors are frequently forced to overhear their coworkers’ full-volume alerts and alarms that may sing, chime, clash, speak, or vibrate through the furniture. and if the owner has walked away and left the device on her desk, oftentimes the alerts continue in a never-ending cycle of maddening noise.
the fix: turn down the volume
post advises choosing a neutral alert sound, turning down the volume and being aware of the environment. “vibrate mode is sometimes even more distracting,” she notes, recalling a former colleague whose phone shook his desk drawer every time he got a message. if you’re frequently away from your devices, turning them off or on silent will win you friends.
bad behavior no. 3: meal-time mobile use
“you do not need a mobile device to eat,” snaps post. however, client lunches with the blackberry next to the salad fork and iphone beside the butter knife are all too common. she recalls one friend who rarely got to see his girlfriend, and then when they went to dinner, she spent half the time texting and the other half insisting she really was listening. then there’s that one friend: eyes constantly darting to the screen, who sends a message between courses andapologizes afterwards.
the fix: get the devices off the table
“business meals are all about building relationships. do not put that device out on the table,” post counsels. “it’s rude. just by showing it, people are distracted by it.” she also sees little difference between a lunch with the boss and a dinner with your friends or spouse. using a device at the table signals that you’re uninterested in the people who are present. if you’re expecting an emergency call, forewarn your guest, and get up from the table before answering.
bad behavior no. 4: public personal calls
“it blows my mind when i am sitting in a practically deserted airport, and someone talking on a cell phone walks right up and sits across from me,” says post. “i once had to listen to a long conversation about whether this woman should get a cat.” in the office, on a bus, at the mall and in the lunch line, people everywhere are being subjected to check-ins with children, details of medical procedures and last night’s tv guide.
the fix: find a quiet corner
“it doesn’t matter if you don’t care who overhears your conversations with the doctor, it’s that no one else wants to hear your personal calls,” explains post. an occasional quick call home in earshot of colleagues is fine, she says, but it’s inappropriate to do it frequently or hold lengthy conversations. in fact, a 2006 survey reported in the boston globe found that the no. 1 employee complaint was coworkers that talked too loudly on the phone.
bad behavior no. 5: unplugged and unscreened media
especially while traveling, many fail to keep their media to themselves, posts points out. you know, it’s that person on the train streaming “moving like tebow” from a phone without headphones, or the one reading r-rated materials on an unfiltered tablet. “having good mobile manners means being a decent person and considering whether your actions will bother people around you.”
the fix: keep it to yourself
keep your devices, work, and entertainment for your eyes and ears alone. use headphones, and be certain that they contain the sound. post also suggests if you work on private company documents or are interested in other sensitive materials, to get a privacy filter, which blocks the view from the side. “it’s more considerate because it keeps your world in your seat,” she says.